Many Mentors on My Road to the White House - Part 1
Miguel de Cervantes, the 16th century Spanish novelist, poet and playwright, once said: “Believe there are no limits...”
That's exactly the type of positive mindset one needs to achieve big goals in life which may at first appear insurmountable. However, with fierce conviction, passion, positivity and perseverance almost anything is possible. I learned this critically important life lesson at an early age as I pursued a political appointment in the White House after graduating from college.
This was a winding road with no assurance of success.
In fact, the odds of accomplishing this big goal at such a young age were not in my favor -- not even close. I certainly could not have done it alone. There were intangible factors beyond my control which helped my farfetched dream become reality, such as good luck and good timing.
But that's not all.
To paraphrase some lyrics by the iconic band, The Beatles, I got by with a little help from my friends -- and mentors.
Thus, here's some career advice for Millennials and Gen Z on the importance
of mentors: if you want to land a high-level job at a young age, it's
vital to have mentors help pave the way and push you along. No one does it alone.
Inside the U.S. Capitol
My story begins inside the cavernous corridors of the U.S. Capitol building. That’s where I had the honor of working with some of the masterful mentors who shaped my career. Chief among them were George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala.
But first, some background about how I got my proverbial foot in the door...
In January 1990, I was a 20-year old journalism student at the University of Maryland. My minor in political science involved a semester-long internship on Capitol Hill for college credit. The year before, as a sophomore, I worked as the editorial page editor and an award-winning columnist for the nationally-recognized daily student newspaper, The Diamondback.
It was there, in the newsroom above South Campus Dining Hall, where I wrote scathing editorials about the domestic and foreign policies of President George H.W. Bush. This earned me a coveted writing award from The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and recognition from Rolling Stone magazine.
But how did I get from south campus at the University of Maryland to the South Lawn of the White House at age 23?
Little did I know at the time that my work for the student newspaper, buttressed by my studies, would help me land an instrumental internship in the Office of the Majority Leader. This is the No. 2 leadership position in the House of Representatives, behind the Speaker of the House.
Back then, I was a registered Democrat (FYI: I've been a registered Independent for the past two decades). My intense passion for politics and public affairs led me to aim high in applying for a Capitol Hill internship. I had greatly admired former Congressman Richard A. Gephardt, who was the House Majority Leader at the time.
“Dick” – as he was known to his beloved staff -- was an outspoken critic and thorn in the side of the Bush Administration. I also agreed with the Congressman's legislative proposals and policies to foster economic prosperity for the middle class.
Thus, with my fierce passion, college newspaper experience and a handful of clips, I aggressively pursued the high-level internship. This was a long shot, to
say the least, and no one really thought I stood a chance (except me).
But sometimes long shots come in. If you never try, then you will never know what could have been.
Many people who knew me wondered aloud: Why would they want YOU?
It was a good question for several reasons:
- Congressman Gephardt represented St. Louis, Missouri, whereas I'm a native New Yorker who had no ties whatsoever to the so-called Show Me State.
- Neither my family nor I were active party members or donors.
- I had no connections on Capitol Hill at that time.
In short, I took a long leap of faith like a trapeze artist walking a tightrope with no net below. This is the beginning of my story as I look back more than 20-years later and share some of the important life lessons learned.
In case you missed it...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I'm an independent writer and strategic communications advisor. I'm also a proud Brand Ambassador for beBee Affinity Social Network. In addition to beBee, you can find me buzzing around on Twitter, Medium and LinkedIn.
NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.